Monday, March 31, 2014

Hay(na)ku after Haiyan

Four months ago, the category 5 super-Typhoon Haiyan (known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines) devastated much of Southeast Asia, particularly the central Philippines.

Poetic responses to the disaster include two books whose profits will be donated to nonprofit and service groups providing relief for the typhoon survivors.

A Philippine anthology of literature and visual imagery, titled Surges: Outpourings in Haiyan/Yolanda's Wake, edited by Rosana B. Golez and Joel P. Garduce, who published it only a month after the typhoon, amazingly.

The cover of the book is a now-famous photograph of a boy carrying a toddler piggyback in the midst of strewn debris of trees and wood left by the typhoon. A fitting symbol of how Filipinos have responded to the plight of the typhoon survivors as a family would, in compassionate solidarity.

You can order Surges on facebook.
An American anthology of poetry by Filipino poets around the world, titled Verses Typhoon Yolanda: A Storm of Filipino Poets, edited by Eileen Tabios and published by Meritage Press in March 2014.

The book's cover is a painted rendering of a satellite image of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in an ominous shade of bilious yellow.

You can order Verses Typhoon Yolanda through
Hawak Kamay logo
Another poetic project, Hawak Kamay: Poems for the Philippines, started by Juan Felipe Herrera, poet laureate of California, is the first of its kind: a poetry disaster relief project intended to ease the lives and lot of survivors through the dissemination of poems.

The project — of which I am a part — has so far collected, via facebook, over 100 poems from people across the world pertaining to the typhoon and particularly to the plight of the survivors. A selection of these poems will be distributed through print or other means to the people in the Philippines who were hit hardest by the typhoon.

The Hawak Kamay project is still ongoing. If you would like to contribute poems to the project, you can do so at the Hawak Kamay facebook. I hope you will.

A poem that I wrote for the Hawak Kamay project is intended to be soft and encouraging to typhoon survivors. This poem is serving two purposes, also appearing in Verses Typhoon Yolanda and thus contributing to disaster relief fundraising.

I'm going to share below my poems in these two books, hoping to encourage you to buy them and provide some cash for disaster relief.

Hay(na)ku for the Survivors

dear friends
who persevere after

passed over you

an angry
angel of death—

is coming
soon sooner soonest,

clean water
almost there now.

hands raised
up toward heaven

your deliverance,
your babies safe.

We want you
to know

we are here,
we love

we are millions
singing for

— Vince Gotera, from Verses Typhoon Yolanda (2014)

I sent this particular poem to Eileen Tabios, editor of Verses Typhoon Yolanda, because she is the inventor of the hay(na)ku form: a 3-line, 6-word stanza with 1 word in line 1, 2 words in line 2, and 3 words in line 3. Sometimes a poet will use a reversed hay(na)ku — 3 words in line 1, 2 words in line 2, 1 word in line 3 — as I do in the last three stanzas. The form depends on good lineation . . . not just the division of six-word groups into the line pattern, but useful, sense-laden line breaks.

Here is another poem, which I wrote to try and make sense of a heartbreaking story that surfaced from the Philippine disaster. I don't know if the poem succeeds in "making sense" of this personal devastation, but at least I can honor the people who suffered it. The daughter's heroism and the mother's heartbreak are monumental. This poem appears in Surges and thus also contributes to raising funds for disaster relief.

News from Typhoon Yolanda
— a hay(na)ku sonnet
save yourself
just let go

daughter moans
to her mother

her wrist
in surging waters

wood piercing
her broken torso

Ma whispers goodbye
daughter slips away

Based on the Philippine Daily Enquirer 11-11-2013 news story at

— Vince Gotera, from Surges: Outpourings in Haiyan/Yolanda's Wake (2013)

This poem is also in hay(na)ku, but more particularly it is a hay(na)ku sonnet. This is a form I invented, made up of five hay(na)ku where the last one is squished into two lines (combining the 1-word and 2-word lines) in order to get the requisite 14 lines. The form has gotten some online attention recently, in the hay(na)ku "home" blog and in Eileen Tabios's personal Eileen Verbs Books blog.

I hope this inspires you to pick up both Surges and Verses Typhoon Yolanda and help to provide much-needed money for the Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda disaster relief efforts in the Philippines. Poetry can do much more in our lives than we often consider it does. Let's help poetry do good for people and the world.

Would you please leave a comment below? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line below that starts "Posted by" and click on the word "comments."

Tomorrow starts National Poetry Month. Shall we all meet back here? I hope you will try writing a poem every day in April. Ingat — take care, friends.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

VidPo 3.0 - Gawain's Rap

Hello, friends. In anticipation of National Poetry Month, I've created a video of my poem "Gawain's Rap."

I trust you know the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the medieval romance on which this rap poem is based. Though the poem, in its own way, tells the story well enough.

This poem "Gawain's Rap" was originally published in the Winter 1989 issue of The Wooster Review, published once upon a time by the College of Wooster in Ohio. It later appeared in my first poetry collection, Dragonfly (1994).

Thanks for watching the video. Hope you enjoyed it. Would you please leave a comment below? I'd love to hear what you think. Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line below that starts "Posted by" and click on the word "comments."

See you back here in a couple of days for National Poetry Month? Let's all write a poem every day in April. Ingat — take care, everyone.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Aswang Wars: Interview with Enita Meadows

Hello, everyone. Re-starting the blog. Just now pumped the pedal a couple of times and turned the key. A little sluggish, but the engine turned over. Coupla puffs of blue smoke and here we are, humming okay. Checking the mirrors and the seat adjustments. Ready to go. Seat belts, everyone. Okay? Ennnnngage.

Earlier this month, on March 7th, the TV show Grimm aired an episode titled "Mommy Dearest." The cool thing about this episode for me as a Filipino American is that the spine-chilling creature of that week — the Wesen, as they say on Grimm — was an aswang. Yes, the Filipino aswang. If you're a regular follower of this blog, you know of my extreme interest in the aswang . . . three poems and some illustrations on the blog. Turns out the Grimm character police Sergeant Wu is a Filipino, a Chinese Filipino probably, who grew up in the Philippines, raised on the aswang and other Filipino legends. (The actor who plays Wu, Reggie Lee, is also Filipino and hipped the show to the possibility of using the aswang as a Wesen.)

I'm a pushover for anything and everything aswang. Well, friends, Enita Meadows, a Filipino American author of paranormal/fantasy YA lit ("young adult," ya know), is now two-thirds through publishing her aswang trilogy, The Aswang Wars. Wait, what? A Filipino American literary series centered on the aswang? Who'd a-thunk it. Gotta find out more, right?

Well, I'm pleased and honored today to present an interview with Enita Meadows, author of The Aswang Wars trilogy. I won't say anything here about her life and work . . . she can fill us in on that herself. Here we go.

Vince Enita, welcome! Can you tell us something about yourself? Where were you born and raised? How did you become a writer? How did you get into writing YA books?

Enita Of course, Vince. I grew up in Seattle, Washington, so I was raised with a lot of diversity in the cultures all around me. I've always been fascinated by cultural mythology and folklore, so as a kid with an overactive imagination, I started coming up with lengthy stories around the age of ten.

That's when I started writing, and I actually ended up crafting a full-length fantasy novel based on Chinese mythology. That one never saw the light of day, but my writing grew as I got older. By age 18 I had already signed the contract for my first paranormal YA novel, The Messenger, which is based on Native Northwest lore.

Vince That's wonderful that you started writing so young and have continued. Congratulations on your literary successes. Would you please talk about your previous published books before we discuss The Aswang Wars?

Enita Gladly! I currently have two books out aside from The Aswang Wars. My first contracted novel, of which I spoke just now, The Messenger, is a YA Paranormal Romance novel based on the Native American folklore I was exposed to growing up in Washington State.

The second, Eire, is a novel I chose to self-publish, and it's done quite well so far. Typical of me, it's also based on cultural folklore, this time largely on old Gaelic. The novel's title character is a young gryphon who, with his bondmate Ashling, sets off on a reluctant journey to rebuild the Otherworld.

Vince You're being too modest, Enita. I know that besides the book-length works, you also have short stories out as e-books, "Password," "O Clever Wolf Am I," and "Chainmail." But let's get to The Aswang Wars, shall we? What is an aswang, first of all?

Enita As an American, that's hard for me to answer even after writing three books on them! In the Philippines, the term aswang covers a wide range of fantastic but terrifying ghouls. The Philippines has many different cultural variations between provinces, but in general an aswang is described as a shapeshifter — popular forms include beautiful young women, and common animals such as dogs, cats, pigs, and bats — who feasts on the bodily organs and fluids of human beings. They usually have a sweet tooth for pregnant women and young children, and very few true weaknesses. The scariest part is that they hide in plain sight, and you may not know that even your closest friend is a blood-sucking monster!

Vince I know that The Aswang Wars is made up of three books, two of which are out and a third due out soon. What is the larger arc of the trilogy as a whole? Without giving away any spoilers, of course.

Enita The books become more involved as you read through them. The overall arc of the story involves this seemingly emotionless and indifferent monster and his search for the memories that were blocked out of his mind. The first book, Manduruko, is a step in to test the water, following Jei Rivera in a journey that leads him to discover the things that others are hiding from him. In the second, Mantahungal, he has to discover things history has hidden from him. And the third, Segbin, . . . well, I guess you'll see.

Vince Does The Aswang Wars trilogy fit somehow into the overall vibe of your work in fantasy YA?

Enita The reaction I got from my editors when I submitted this series for publication was that it was really unlike anything they'd read before, and I'd have to agree. I've never heard of an American aswang novel before, and on top of that, the writing style is very different from my other books as well. There's very little dialogue, especially in the first installment, Manduruko.

Additionally, the writing style within the series changes slightly with the character. Jei Rivera starts out an indifferent club fighter and changes dramatically as the books go on. The writing reflects that. None of my books are set specifically, as I write how the story feels to me as its creator. However, I will say that The Aswang Wars is the first series I've seen through to absolute completion including publication, with good reason. It truly is something no one has seen before.

VinceWhat are your plans for The Aswang Wars? Both in terms of the characters and also with regard to any future stories and publications?

Enita The Aswang Wars trilogy is contracted with MuseItUp Publishing for another couple of years. After that, we'll have to see what makes sense when the contract is up.

The characters of The Aswang Wars will not have any more books written about them specifically. The world in which The Aswang Wars is set, however, leaves a lot of room to experiment with. Time will tell.

Vince Wonderful, Enita. Thanks for talking to us about your work. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five or ten years?

Enita I'm still growing as a writer, with several stories already locked up inside. In five or ten years I'd hope to have written a book that would reach a vast amount of readers. Although it seems every author dreams of money, a bestseller list spot, and movie adaptations left and right, my definition of success is to not have wasted the creativity. If my stories reach readers and entertain, that is where I want to be in five or ten years.

Vince To finish . . . what is the weirdest question you have ever been asked in an interview? And how did you answer?

Enita I get a lot of random questions when I do interviews, but I think one of the strangest ones was for The Messenger, my debut novel I metioned earlier: "What three items would your main character bring if marooned on a desert island?" Not only was that weird, but it was tough to answer. My characters are made of fantastic abilities and ancient lore, so the thought of them choosing objects was difficult. I believe my female protagonist brought survival supplies and a good book, while my male protagonist brought his special necklace (a big plot point in the story), a jug of water and a childish toy. Definitely a strange answer for a strange question!

Vince Well, I'm glad I didn't ask that question, though I guess I did ask it just now! Thanks so much, Enita. It's been fun interviewing you.

Enita Thank you for having me!

Okay, that's it, friends. To find out more about Enita Meadows, check out her blog. There are also an Aswang Wars website — and a Facebook page. The Aswang Wars first and second books Manduruko and Mantahungal are available as e-books; in addition, the first book has come out in print. The third, Segbin, is appearing soon, so watch out for that. It'll be quite a treat to have all three books available all together.

Won't you please comment to Enita or me below? We'd love some feedback. Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line below that starts "Posted by" and click on the word "comments."

On keeping the blog humming along . . . in a couple days, National Poetry Month starts, and I'll be doing the NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day challenge. Come on back and check that out!

Oh, by the way, I'll be a guest judge for the April Poem-a-Day challenge (take a look at the Poem-a-Day link in the previous paragraph). Maybe I'll get to read one of your poems if you take part in PAD.

Take care, everyone — ingat. 

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